I am glad that mental illness in America is no longer a dirty secret. The American public finally realized that the stigma attached to mental illness should be eradicated and that mental illness is a disease and it should not be held against individuals who have it.
I am passionate about topics relating to children. What bothers me about the widespread acceptance of people with mental disability is the glaring fact that a lot of children now a days are taking medications for one form of mental health illness or another.
During my not so distant past, when mental illness was not as socially acceptable, I can count with one hand children or adult I know with this affliction. Nowadays, it seems like every other person I know had been diagnosed with mental illness such as ADHD, depression, and manic depression. It is particularly disturbing to me when kids who behave like kids are labeled as “hyperactive,” “troubled,” “learning disabled,” or “mentally challenged.”
Labeling and mental health diagnoses bothers me because my daughter was once “diagnosed” by her kindergarten teacher as having ADHD and found to be in need of “special education.” A teacher in the public school system recommended my daughter to special education without the school psychologists’ assessment of the matter. The recommendation was based on my daughter’s low score in the kindergartner’s oral test (that was given to her when she had a bad ear infection) and her inattentiveness during class (because she already knew what was being taught in the class). I was livid when the teacher told me about it during the parent-teacher conference. And she made the situation even worst by saying, “All parents think their children are geniuses.” I asked her about the school psychologist’s recommendation and I was told that children with low test scores were “automatically” put in the state’s special education program.
I did not let the matter lie because I knew my daughter did not need to be labeled as a slow learner or take medications she did not need. I told her teacher I want the psychologist’s input and that I will seek a second opinion from people who have the expertise and the credentials to diagnose and recommend educational placement for children. The teacher tried to appease me by giving my daughter extra work and placing her in second grade math and reading classes after she found out that my daughter had knowledge beyond her kindergarten curriculum. I did not back down so my daughter was retested. She was recommended to the gifted class after the school psychologist did the much-needed Individualized Educational Placement (IEP) assessment. It is fortunate that she was not labeled negatively because I believe that being in the gifted class contributed to her many educational successes.
The above experience left me thinking how many children must had been misdiagnosed and/or educationally misplaced in the school system. How sad it is for a child to be labeled and/or misdiagnosed: to grow up believing she/he is not capable of learning or that there is something wrong with her/him when she/he is as capable of learning as other children and that she/he is mentally healthy until she/he fulfilled the misdiagnosed prophecy.